Saturday, October 14, 2017

Apria Healthcare is Crazy!

Names changed for identity protection.

In my almost 8 years of practicing primary care medicine, I have seen plenty of crazy, self-defeating bureaucracies (Lookin' at you, United Healthcare!). But at this very moment, my patient's daughter and I are in the thick of the worst bureaucratic battle of all time.

Apria Healthcare, Inc. is refusing to give my patient oxygen. I have no idea why, except that they are crazy.

My primary care patient Jane lives with her daughter, Louise. Jane has severe COPD and has difficulty leaving the house without supplemental oxygen. She qualifies for oxygen supplementation by Medicare guidelines, but, inexplicably, we cannot get her the oxygen she needs from Apria.

Louise, my medical assistant Cherilyn, and I have been trying to get Apria Healthcare to bring Jane ambulatory oxygen supplies for weeks. (This would mean portable tanks to carry oxygen or a portable oxygen compressor (POC) device that can extract oxygen from the air.) Every time my office sends Apria forms, Apria faxes back that we have not sent the right forms and sends us new ones. This has happened literally ten times this week.

Yesterday, I spoke to an Apria representative who told me that Apria would be sending Jane oxygen tanks in the next couple of days for temporary use. I needed to fill out a form so that she could get a POC for long term use when one becomes available. So I filled out the form.

Last night, Louise called me. A different Apria representative, Robin, called her and told her that Jane does not qualify for a POC. Instead, she needs to get something called a Home Transfill Unit (HTU). This unit extracts and compresses oxygen from the  at home and loads it into reusable tanks for use outside the home. To qualify for this, however, they needed a different form from my office and a record of a visit to my office with measurements of Jane's blood oxygen saturation sitting and walking with and without supplemental oxygen within 30 days. So Louise called me and told me.

This afternoon, I called Apria. I asked for a supervisor. The representative, supposedly named 'Alex,' said none were available, but he would take care of it. 'Alex' told me that Apria had all the paperwork they needed. All that needed to happen for Jane to get the HTU was to pay a fee of $224. I confirmed three times that there was no more paperwork due.

So, I called Louise and told her. She called Apria, and, by coincidence, got 'Alex' on the line. (Alex refuses to give his last name.) 'Alex' told her that she needs to pay the fee, but that I need to fill out a new  form called a WOPD. Louise called back and told me. I asked her to ask Apria to send the form to my e-mail. She did that a few minutes ago. So far, there is nothing in my inbox. 

With Jane and Louise's permission, I have sent this story to the local news station. On Monday, we are going to contact the state attorney general's office and Jane's state rep. THIS IS INSANE!

Addendum: No WOPD form has appeared in my inbox. My e-mail is working, I have gotten multiple e-mails from Louise. Meanwhile, Louise has called Apria again and is currently getting the run-around from reps claiming to be called 'Dick,' and 'Jane.' I am beginning to think Apria has been overrun by a club of sadistic clowns.

Addendum 2: 'Dick' and 'Jane' brought in a supervisor supposedly called 'James.' (How they magically came up with a supervisor after 'Alex' told me none were available is a whole other question.) 'James' told Louise that that they are having "issues" with the document server and that the system is down. They will send the WOPD form to me as soon as it is fixed. Sure they will. Yup.

Apria, the Magic 8-Ball of customer service.

A picture to calm my rage:


  1. Awful! A friend of mine said it was hard to get Oxygen. Now I understand what she might have meant! Isn't this behavior illegal, discriminatory or .....?

  2. I don't know. I cannot understand it. They make money by selling stuff through Medicare, so it makes no sense whatsoever.

  3. We have had the same dance in obtaining portable O2 for my wife We ended up buying or own portable unit

  4. I have come up with a possible explanation for this weird behavior. I think they must have outsourced phone support to a poorly run company. Probably one of the overseas sweatshop outfits that service multiple companies at a time. (Not kidding. They exist.)

  5. My suggestion is change to different home service company such as the one through the local hospital unless you are in a rural area then you are stuck. Unless the client/patient is ready for hospice care with it being this severe. That gets balls moving depending on hospice providers in the area.

    1. Thanks for the advice. Apria finally caved, though, after I called the local news station and newspaper.